Author: Min Jin Lee
Published: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Where I picked up my book: Gifted via my library book club
Key Words: Japanese-Korean culture, family dynamics, Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.
This book was a fantastic example of how historical fiction can take you on a journey to another place and time, and spit you out after you read the last sentence-with significantly more understanding and knowledge than you had before you started on the journey. It was mesmerizing, heartbreaking, memorable, honest and will be sure to stick with me for a long time. I fell in love with the characters and felt like I was walking in their shoes (Min Jin Lee’s choice to change the narrator’s perspective from character to character may have had something to do with that. To me, this felt genuine and genius). I experienced their emotions, I walked their streets, I smelled their homes, I tasted their food, and I felt their feelings as if they were my own. That right there-that is exactly why I am a reader.
My only caveat was it seemed to fall slightly short in the final bit of the story. Story lines seemed to be left unfinished and the characters came across as slightly less thought-out than the rest of the book. It felt a bit rushed to wrap up. Granted, it is a longgggg book, so maybe a slightly rushed ending was necessary to make it less than 1,000 pages, but with that said, I also felt myself rushing a bit just to finish it up.
Overall, Lee captured what it was like to live a Korean experience and taught me so much about family, Korean an Japanese culture, class structure, female responsibility and parental roles, to name a few. I’m thankful to have been able to read it and I highly suggest picking this one up. Bonus: I read Pachinko for a local book club and I’m pumped to hear what everyone else has to say about it. I feel like it’s a perfect book club book to discuss with a group!
As always, let me know your thoughts about Pachinko, this blog, my Instagram…or anything else bookish! I always love chatting books.